Utusan ceases publication but may be back soon

KUALA LUMPUR: All publications under the Utusan Group – Utusan Malaysia, Mingguan Malaysia, Kosmo! and Kosmo! Ahad – have ceased publication effective today, but sources say it will not be long before the newspapers hit the streets again.

All four newspapers are expected to resume publication on Nov 1 under a new management, according to information obtained.

But, it learnt that a large number of the existing 862 employees will not be re-hired.

There was much drama at the group’s headquarters in Jalan Utusan here when

hundreds of employees were caught off-guard by a sudden notice asking them to vacate the building by 1pm yesterday.

The building will be sealed off today.

Utusan executive chairman Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir announced that poor cash flow, mounting debts and declining sales led to the board of directors arriving at the decision on Monday.

He said the board approved the Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidation proposal and appointed UHY Advisory (KL) Sdn Bhd as interim liquidator.

“This step had to be taken because the board was of the view that the company is no longer solvent to continue business.

“For that reason, the company will cease operations on Wednesday, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

In an immediate response, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Utusan representative Mohd Taufek Razak hit out at the top management, calling them “cowards” for not facing their employees and explaining the situation.

“The management has been inhumane. It is too short a notice for us to leave. This was a predictable situation, and until now not one representative of the executive management was present to explain to us what was going on, ” he told a press conference at the Utusan headquarters yesterday.

Taufek said the 862 Utusan employees had been placed on forced leave until Oct 30 by the company, adding that the company still owed the employees two months’ salary.

He said the interim liquidator was kind enough to grant extra time to the employees to clear their belongings from the building, adding that they have been given until 6pm today to do so.

Many of the employees were in tears as they took their last photographs in the newspaper’s office and carried boxes of their belongings out. Many had worked there for decades.

Taufek said the liquidators would hold a briefing for all employees at 3pm on Oct 30.

Abdul Aziz said Aurora Mulia Sdn Bhd has acquired a 70% stake of Utusan-owned Dilof Sdn Bhd, which is the company holding the printing permits for the four newspapers.

Aurora Mulia, which is linked to tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, also holds 31.22% of Media Prima Bhd, currently Malaysia’s largest media conglomerate.

Utusan Malaysia was first published as Utusan Melayu in Jawi in 1939 in Singapore.

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